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לא תזבח על חמץ דם זבחי

You shall not offer the blood of My feast-offering upon leavened bread. (23:18)

The Korban Pesach must be slaughtered on Erev Pesach, after all chametz has been disposed of. The Sefer HaChinuch explains that setting a designated time for the fulfillment of all matters is their source of preservation. Thus, concerning Korban Pesach — which is a seminal mitzvah included among a group of mitzvos affiliated with the liberation from Egypt and setting the stage for our nationhood — time and order are essential. The Torah gives preordained times for each and every component of the celebration of this Festival and its accompanying rituals. No commandment related to this time frame encroaches on…

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לא תהיה לו כנושה

Do not act toward him as a creditor. (22:24)

Hashem’s act of creating the world was an act of altruism. The Almighty needs nothing. He simply wants to do good, to benefit others. To this end, he expects His People to emulate His ways by identifying with the needs of others and looking for ways to alleviate their travail. It is important to underscore that travail comes in all forms and sizes. Just because an issue does not bother me does not mean that it would not bother anyone else. Our barometer for success is measured by what we do for others – not by what we do for…

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כי יתן איש אל רעהו כסף או כלים לשמר

If a man shall give money or vessels to his fellow to safeguard. (22:6)

Our parsha presents the laws concerning people who are entrusted to safeguard someone else’s property. If the pikadon, object (money or vessels) is lost, stolen or damaged, the liability of the shomer, custodian, varies according to the degree of his responsibility. For example, one who receives no compensation (shomer chinam) is responsible only if he had been in the position of safeguarding the article in his charge. One who receives compensation (shomer sachar) or a leasor (socheir) is responsible for loss or theft, unless it occurred in a situation beyond his control, an oneis. A borrower (shoeil) is responsible under…

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ובשביעית יצא לחפשי חנם

And in the seventh, he shall go free, for no charge. (21:2)

Overcome with economical woe, a Jew ignores the degradation that he will bring upon himself and resorts to theft to elevate himself from his sorrowful economic state. He is caught, and found lacking in funds with which to make restitution. As a result, he is sold into slavery. In the event that the value of the theft equals or exceeds the estimated value of his six years of work, he is sold as a bondsman. Jewish slavery is unlike any other form of restriction of personal freedom. The Jewish bondsman is treated quite well. Nonetheless, he is still a slave,…

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ויאמרו כל אשר דבר ד' נעשה ונשמע

They said, “Everything that Hashem has said, we will do and we will listen.” (24:7)

When a friend comes over to ask for a favor, the usual responses are: “Depends on what you ask”; “If it does not take too much time; “If it does not conflict with my schedule;” “If it is ‘legal.’” Rarely does one respond, “Sure, whatever you want.” Having said this, let us now appreciate Klal Yisrael’s response to Hashem’s Torah: Naaseh v’Nishma; “We will do, and we will listen.” No questions; no stipulations, no reasons: simply, whatever Hashem asks of us we are prepared to do. Veritably, this response is part of our DNA. When Hashem called Avraham Avinu, the Patriarch’s…

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אם כסף תלוה את עמי

When you lend money to My People. (22:24)

Lending money should be simple. After all, if I have and he does not have, why not share? There is always the slight issue of being paid back, but that usually happens. The Torah says, Im kesef talveh es ami, “When you lend money to My People.” The halachah is that if one has some money available for lending purposes, and he has the option of lending either to a Jew or a gentile, he should lend Ami, My People. A Jew precedes a gentile. Naturally, since we are open – minded, progressive, independent individuals, we might question this halachah….

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כל אלמנה ויתום לא תענון. אם ענה תענה אתו כי אם צעק יצעק אלי שמע אשמע צעקתו

You shall not cause pain to any widow or orphan. If you (dare to) cause him pain …. For if he shall cry out to Me, I shall surely hear his outcry. (22:21,22)

The widow and orphan represent all of the weak and disadvantaged, those who have no one to protect them or to look out for their interests. Sadly, there are those who take advantage of the weak, either because they are easy prey or because the tormentor himself is so insecure that he must “beat up” on the weak in order to maintain a false sense of self-dignity. The Torah tells us in no uncertain terms that Hashem Himself will intervene on behalf of the weak and disadvantaged because, when they cry, their tears go directly to Him. Hashem listens to…

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ורצע אדניו את אזנו במרצע ועבדו לעלם

And his master shall bore through his ear with the awl, and he shall serve him forever. (21:6)

Why does the Torah command the master to bore the Hebrew slave’s ear, rather than any other organ of the body? Rashi quotes Chazal who teach that, “The ear – that heard at Har Sinai (when the Torah was given), ‘For Bnei Yisrael are My servants,’ and this person (eved Ivri) acquired a (new) master for himself – should be bored with the awl… They are My servants and not servants to servants.” The Rosh observes that the gematria, numerical equivalent, of martzea, awl, is 400. Klal Yisrael was to be enslaved by the Egyptians for 400 years. Hashem shortened…

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כל אלמנה ויתום לא תענון

You shall not cause pain to any widow or orphan. (22:21)

The obligation to identify and care for the needs of the widow and orphan (and anyone who, likewise, has no one to care for him) extends beyond their physical and material needs. One must act toward them as a father acts towards his children, providing material, as well as spiritual, sustenance. We must endeavor to provide a Torah education for the orphaned child, just as we do for our own. This (I feel) applies as well (and possibly more so) to those children who can sadly be referred to as lebedik yesomim, living orphans, children whose parents are physically alive,…

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אם ענה תענה אתו כי אם צעק יצעק אלי שמע אשמע צעקתו

If you dare cause him pain…! – For if he shall cry out to Me, I shall surely hear his outcry. (22:22)

Causing pain to a person whose life is wretched, who stares misery in the face each and every day, is wrong – regardless of one’s motivation. Sometimes, a person’s intentions are noble. He is acutely aware that the individual who is suffering might well put his suffering behind him, if he would only pray with greater devotion. Some people need to be up against the wall with little or no hope for salvation before they pray like there is no tomorrow. They must feel that it is all over; there is no way out; there is no tomorrow. Only then,…

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